Project Management

Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Cameron McGaughy
Lynda Bourne
Kevin Korterud
Conrado Morlan
Peter Tarhanidis
Mario Trentim
Jen Skrabak
David Wakeman
Wanda Curlee
Christian Bisson
Ramiro Rodrigues
Soma Bhattacharya
Emily Luijbregts
Sree Rao
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Marat Oyvetsky
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Jorge Martin Valdes Garciatorres
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Rex Holmlin
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Dan Goldfischer
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Jim De Piante
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Michael Hatfield
Deanna Landers
Kelley Hunsberger
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Alfonso Bucero Torres
Marian Haus
Shobhna Raghupathy
Peter Taylor
Joanna Newman
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Jess Tayel
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Rebecca Braglio
Roberto Toledo
Geoff Mattie

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Defining a Standard Methodology and Project Management Metrics

By Mario Trentim

Defining standards and metrics is a key function for the Project Management Office (PMO). In many ways, a PMO is uniquely positioned to provide guidance and orientation in order to build consistency in the application of project management best practices among the projects within an organization.

As you can imagine, a standard methodology provides a basis for performance, and metrics provide a basis for the measurement of that performance against the standard. To that end, project management practices can benefit from metrics to establish the depth and extent of applying standards selected by the organization.

Here, I will outline the steps in developing good PM methodology for your organization and how to define metrics and key performance indicators.

Developing a Project Management Methodology

The first step in introducing formal project management processes and practices is the awareness of the starting point (AS IS - current situation). The PMO should scrutinize the organization’s capabilities in the project management environment as a prerequisite for designing the type, depth and comprehensiveness of project management methodology processes and tools. The PMO’s examination of current project management practices involves the following activities:

  1. Assessing current capability, using Maturity Models and other techniques
  2. Analyzing assessment findings (AS IS, TO BE and Gap Analysis)
  3. Comparing best practices (benchmark with other organizations)
  4. Developing project management methodology (identify common practices and describe processes and tools in detail)
  5. Defining metrics and KPIs (establish oversight and thresholds)
  6. Implementing the methodology (provide orientation and training)
  7. Making adaptations, if needed (get feedback and measure effectiveness)

Bear in mind that project management methodology development is not a simple task. This undertaking requires:

  • Patience in constructing detailed process steps
  • Business acumen in defining processes and practices that provide a functional fit
  • Product and service awareness to ensure alignment of technical processes and interests in project management performance
  • Advanced project management skills on the part of developers
  • Strong executive and senior management support for the development (and subsequent implementation) effort

 

Below you can find a simple structure to guide you in developing a detailed methodology to suit your organization’s needs.

Defining Project Management Metrics

The PMO will be involved in determining which metrics are used in the project management environment. Actually, most PMOs are responsible for metrics comprising the various sets of data that represent and quantify either its prescriptive practice guidance or results from its directed measurements.

A good set of metrics can be used to:

  • Facilitate decisions and ensure compliance
  • Provide a common understanding of project and activity status
  • Monitor and control project performance
  • Monitor consistency and improvement

Some metrics could be:

  • Estimate to project completion
  • Number of unresolved issues
  • Current resource allocation
  • Labor costs spent (per month)
  • Project schedule (Agile or Waterfall)
  • Issues found by QA
  • Issues found by customers

Defining a standard project management methodology is very important for consistency, helping to improve maturity and increase project success rates. This is a collaborative endeavor and should be led by the PMO, if there is one.

What are some of your biggest lessons learned from developing standard methodology or defining project metrics?

Posted by Mario Trentim on: August 26, 2020 01:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

What Is the Future of Project Management?

By Mario Trentim

Various organizations and individuals have made great contributions to advance the project management profession over the past few decades. And as standards and methodologies continue to evolve, new tools and techniques are used to plan and manage all kinds of initiatives.

However, myriad approaches can take a toll on productivity and collaboration, since it’s hard to maintain consistency and a common language across frameworks.

Is project management evolving too fast?

 

The Project Management Revolution

“One size fits all” does not apply to project management. It’s common sense. So why was project management standardized in the past? Taking into consideration that project management initially was applied to large technical projects in their early stages, a command and control approach was the norm. Planning and management were centralized. The management style favored hierarchy and disincentivized creativity. A waterfall approach made sense, as the context of project management existed outside of the uncertainty and volatility that many projects face today.

 

Figure 1: “Traditional” projects based on past versions of the PMBOK® Guide (Microsoft Project template)

 

Things shifted as enterprise environmental factors changed. Agile approaches were developed to allow for shorter execution cycles and more frequent feedback. Individuals and teams started voicing their opinions, discussing best practices with a lean mentality to improve their work and results.

 

Figure 2: Agile projects (Microsoft Project template)

 

The project management revolution spread like wildfire. Project management is currently used in education, marketing projects, event planning, human resources initiatives, infrastructure megaprojects, and much more. It is part of daily operations in various industries, private companies, nonprofits, and the governmental sector.

As a result, a variety of approaches and methodologies were created to keep projects on target. Consequently, it has become increasingly difficult to define project management today.

 

Embracing Modern Project Management

Digital transformation and technology are catalyzing changes in organizational structures and enabling new capabilities by empowering individuals and teams. 

To keep pace with the changes, modern project management evolved into a broad and general principle-based approach.

 

 

Figure 3: Disciplined Agile Principles

 

 

Principle-based approaches enable individuals and teams to choose what is best for their project according to its characteristics. From the perspective of processes, tools, and techniques, modern project management embraces hybrid combinations, which are powered by modern tools.

Modern project management must be supported by contemporary collaboration tools, intuitive and flexible task management, virtual workspaces, and more.

Figure 4: Collaboration hub and intuitive task management

Spurred by the global pandemic, organizations have recently taken remote work to another level. And individuals and teams must become more tech-savvy than ever to keep up.

 

How do you see project management evolving in the near future and how do you keep up with its changes?

 

Posted by Mario Trentim on: July 06, 2020 12:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Remote Work Burnout Is Real. Here’s How to Avoid It

By Mario Trentim

These days, many of us have traded in-person meetings for videoconference calls and business casual for sweatpants. We’re spending much more time working in front of our computer screens and in an astonishing number of new meetings.

The time spent on video chat apps has increased by 277 percent since March, according to research by RescueTime. As a long-time user of time-tracking software, I review my screen time weekly. Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve noticed a dramatic change in my activities. And it made me wonder about the remote work habits of my team members as a result of the new paradigm.

So, I decided to investigate further from two perspectives:

The Collateral Effect of Working From Home

Employee Engagement: Although some people enjoyed flexible work options prior to the pandemic, most project teams were not fully remote. My team, for example, had a chance to meet and greet at the office every day, building our unique culture through real-world interactions.

Shifting to remote work in the wake of the lockdown made people anxious. I believe that some of us felt a little disconnected. We lost our routines and rituals. Moreover, social and economic effects became a major concern for all of us.

During the first week of lockdown, we assured our team that no one would be laid off during the next three months. Multiple strategic changes and an enormous effort from all of us helped the company not only serve our customers better but improve efficiency, increase capacity and strengthen our relationships.

Despite the happy vibes described above, there was—and still remains—a lot of uncertainty. Another tipping point happened about 45 days into the lockdown. Confined to our homes, despite our new processes and best practices, we started to become disconnected again. We were struggling once again to find motivation and engagement.

Productivity: From the productivity perspective, it appears as if we are getting more done. There are several reasons for that. For one, cutting commute time down to zero gave people much more productive time.

Coordination and communication protocols were established around ground rules and organizational culture. Information technology helped a lot, improving productivity as manual and repetitive tasks were automated, processes were reviewed in search for operational excellence, dashboards and KPIs were made available to support decision-making and more.

In summary, the global pandemic forced all of us to ask time and time again what adds value and what is wasteful in every aspect of our projects.

 

5 Best Practices for Remote Work

As many of us adjust to the reality of our project teams working remotely well into the immediate future, there are some things we should all keep in mind to keep engagement and productivity up. Here are five ways to fight remote work fatigue and produce better results:

  1. Focus on what adds value for your customers. I know this seems like common sense, but there’s no room for misalignment in organizations working fully remote.
     
  2. Adopt a lean approach in the pursuit of operational excellence. Encourage employees to discuss processes and tools frequently. Get rid of what doesn’t work—or rethink it.
     
  3. Provide training. A lot of organizations were caught by surprise. They turned to any collaboration tool available and sent employees home. Unfortunately, not everyone is tech-savvy. Without the right training for digital tools, many people falter during remote work.
  1. Plan, execute and adapt. Digital transformation is a complex journey. Integrated platforms and architectural decisions must be carefully made. However, planning with no execution is of little use. Adapt as needed and manage changes.
  1. Promote a balanced life. There are various definitions of a balanced life. Promote whatever best suits your organization and culture. And leave room for some fun in the process.

How do you avoid remote work burnout?

 

Posted by Mario Trentim on: June 16, 2020 07:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Introducing the Crisis PMO

By Mario Trentim

 

Although we expect most organizations to have a crisis response plan in place, very few actually do. As the COVID-19 crisis continues to develop, organizations are trying to keep their heads above water as distractions and urgencies create barriers to effective decision-making. But this is not the world’s first crisis—and it won’t be the last.

Is it too Late for a Crisis Response Plan?

First things first: Every project professional needs a plan. As organizations realize they’re wasting time and resources with hasty solutions, project teams are realizing that they have to go back to the drawing board and set up a plan. A consistent and structured approach is needed to successfully deal with a crisis.

What does your PMO have to do with all of this? A PMO is uniquely positioned to solve problems that the project managers cannot solve themselves. On top of that, some PMOs are responsible for portfolio management, and they also support decision-making and the strategic planning processes within an organization.

In fact, because of the COVID-19 crisis, organizations kicked off a number of urgent projects all at the same time. These projects were created to enable remote work, fix supply chain disruptions and more. At the same time, many other projects were terminated or paused without careful analysis.

Whatever phase your project is in due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is not too late for a crisis response plan.

Now what?

If you are a PMO manager and you don’t have a crisis response plan, you must create one now. It does not have to be perfect or extremely detailed. Follow the seven steps below:

7 Elements of a Crisis Response Plan

  1. Consider various scenarios: Identify a broad range of potential scenarios in order to get the big picture. Use simulations where possible and document all assumptions and constraints.
  2. Develop a set of responses and alternative solutions to the scenarios: Account for facilities lockdowns, evacuation, public relations and more.
  3. Combine scenarios and responses into a plan: Although it is not possible to imagine all scenarios, by combining scenarios and responses you are laying the foundation for decision-making when it comes to facing real world scenarios.
  4. Define the chain of command: I cannot overemphasize the importance of a clearly defined chain of command during a crisis. It is time to refine your organizational structure and check if roles and responsibilities are complete and clear.
  5. Establish a war room and backup locations: There should be a place that can be rapidly converted to be used by the crisis response team. Pay attention to connectivity, lines of communication and infrastructure in case the team needs to stay there for days or weeks.
  6. Determine communication channels: Establish effective communication channels throughout the chain of command and with external stakeholders. It is very important that people know where to get official information and that they stay tuned to these channels.
  7. Conduct regular debriefs and post-crisis reviews: Regular debrief sessions, continuous improvement and analysis, iterative planning and post-crisis reviews should be conducted as the crisis evolves and the environment changes.

When you and your team are playing out the potential scenarios and alternative responses, re-think the organizational strategy for the long, mid and short terms. As you pay attention to strategic shifts and changes related to the organization’s objectives, try to uncover how this information impacts the current portfolios and projects.

In order to truly be helpful during this crisis and stay relevant, your PMO needs a very clear chain of command, a war room (even if it is a virtual) and clear communication channels. Shorten the planning cycles and adopt a streamlined feedback process.

Keep in mind that during a crisis, a different type of PMO is needed: a Crisis PMO. In a time of great uncertainty, you should drop all those heavy processes used during stable times and put in place a nimble and flexible crisis response plan.

Let me know how your PMO and projects are doing during the COVID-19 crisis in the comments below.

 

Posted by Mario Trentim on: April 01, 2020 05:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

How to Avoid Overloading Your Team During the COVID-19 Crisis

By Mario Trentim

 

In a previous article, I discussed the COVID-19 crisis from a risk management point of view. As PMOs around the globe work through the pandemic, unexpected challenges continue to arise. Countries are implementing several restrictions, as extreme times call for extreme measures to contain the disease.

 

It is expected that many teams will be working remotely for at least four to eight weeks. In a push to stay connected while working remote, PMOs are relying on communication and collaboration tools. But is it enough?

 

Working from Home Is Different Now

Although many organizations are accustomed to flexible and remote work, this marks the first time that we have seen virtual teams operating on a global scale. And we’re not talking about the traditional home offices we once knew. Project professionals are quarantined, which means they are working with their spouses and kids nearby—and sometimes even babysitters, nannies and home maintenance staff are part of that equation. Keep in mind that your team members are very concerned and stressed at this time. And while they may be out of the office, they are part of a completely different team at home, which comes with its own set of challenges and needs.

 

In a meeting with my team this week, I level set with them. I don’t expect my team to put in exactly eight hours each day. It is okay if their kids show up during conference calls and meetings, and they can set an unavailable status in case they need to take care of personal or family duties. Cultivating a great team spirit and reinforcing an environment of accountability strengthens team morale.

 

Operations and Projects Must Go On

If we all stop working, companies may not survive. In fact, a number of companies have already shuttered their doors for good ahead of the pandemic’s peak. Everyone is forecasting difficult times ahead. And it is our duty as directors and managers to make rational decisions and to plan diligently for the future. That said, what happens to our projects?

 

From a portfolio management perspective, we are going through deep reevaluation due to major strategic changes. Projects were canceled or paused and investments were postponed. But we also have incoming and extremely urgent projects.

Organizations implemented their business contingency plans, and many resulted in additional projects. It could be a project related to supply chain and vendors, IT systems to enable remote work or new product development, among other initiatives. As the crisis looms, these projects become even more urgent.

 

Be Realistic When Planning for New Projects

As we plan for these urgent new projects, we must be very careful. We must take into consideration high risk and uncertainty and pay attention to the estimates.

 

Remember that people are not only working remotely (which is already a challenge for some organizations), people are quarantined. I advise you to develop a solid plan based on requirements and deliverables prioritization, understanding you might have to adjust planning to overcome bumps along the way.

 

Estimates and buffers are crucial. Something that takes two weeks to get done when we are collocated might take more time virtually. Therefore, during this period of quarantine, plan for more execution time.

 

Capacity Planning and Resource Utilization Are Crucial

During this crisis, capacity planning and resource utilization are extremely important. Imagine your team as traffic on a highway: When traffic is high, a minor crash might severely impact traffic flow. Now imagine all the people are distracted and in a hurry at the same time. You might end up with multiple minor crashes that add up to total failure in delivering the urgent project you need right now to overcome the coronavirus crisis.

 

In order to be successful, PMOs and project managers are tracking resource utilization with more details during the pandemic. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Determine capacity of resources available
    1. Calculate the number of people available to do project work, taking into consideration qualifications and skills (categorization).
  2. Determine hours of availability
    1. Convert the number of people into working hours and derive a true representation of availability. For example, let’s say you have:
      1. 10 Engineers part time (50%) = 800h/month
      2. 20 Technicians part time (50%) = 800h/month
      3. 50 Developers full time = 1,600h/month
  3. Set utilization targets
    1. Calculate utilization targets for all project resources below 80 percent as a best practice. Use that data to limit the number of active projects. While resources working below the target may seem inefficient, resources working above that target are likely to introduce costly delays and errors into the projects.
  4. Limit or modify the queue
    1. After conducting careful planning and estimates for every project, you are good to go with the authorization if there are resources available. Monitor and balance the portfolio as needed.

 

The aforementioned steps aren’t some big secret. They are more sensitive now. Unfortunately, some organizations are responding to the crisis with too many uncoordinated initiatives that will result in more harm than good. If we want to overcome the project impact of COVID-19, it is time to conduct:

  • Realistic planning
  • Diligent prioritization
  • Careful resource management
  • Frequent monitoring, controlling and balancing

 

To conclude, do not forget that your team members are quarantined. It’s not business as usual. That means lower productivity and some availability obstacles.

 

How is your PMO navigating the COVID-19 crisis?

Posted by Mario Trentim on: March 23, 2020 12:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)
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